Floating Wetlands in the City of Baltimore: Reusing Materials and Reestablishing Ecosystems in the Inner Harbor
With an increased awareness of our waterway’s health, the City of Baltimore has taken the lead in setting a local example on how to reestablish the vital ecosystems that once dominated the city’s Inner Harbor. Wetlands once filled the waterways surrounding the city, but over time, development, industrial expansion, and increased impervious surfaces contributed to the ecosystems recession. Designers ranging from architects, landscape architects, and environmental planners are recognizing that careful planning, and aggressive restoration, are key to reestablishing these delicate ecosystems.
Wetlands can be found in most waterways, and they can serve as a marker for ecological health. Currently, many wetlands in Maryland are being superseded by invasive plant species, which has led to a monoculture of unproductive ecosystems.
Wetlands function as an integral part of ecological health, with services including:
- Pollution uptake (via evapotranspiration);
- Habitat creation for wildlife;
- Flood reduction;
- Shore stabilization.
In Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium and the environmental design group BioHabitats have taken up the lead on implementing a new medium for wetlands in the water. Using wasted materials found in the harbor, such as discarded plastic bottles, the landscape architecture group Biohabitats designed floating wetlands that use the discarded bottles for buoyancy. The floating surfaces house plant materials such as spartina marsh grasses and aquatic flowers to reduce pollution in the water, and create habitat for aquatic wildlife.
The launch of the wetlands took place outside the National Aquarium in Baltimore, with volunteers, city officials, design team experts, and curious visitors assisting and gazing at the new model of sustainability for the city’s harbor. The new floating wetlands serve not only as a positive attribute for the water’s health, but also as a model for simplicity and innovation in design.
With a modular design and simple construction, implementation of floating wetlands becomes an attainable goal for experts and novices alike. So, where do you think the next floating wetland should grow?